Iffley Music Society

Preview of the Iffley Music Festival

By Giles Woodforde

Whether it's a singer, a pianist, or a string player, there's nothing Iffley resident Michael Bourdeaux likes more than spotting an emerging musical talent to present at the regular Iffley Music Society concerts, or at the Iffley Music Festival, which this year runs from February 11 to 13.

In 2009, for instance, Michael heard Welsh baritone Gary Griffiths at the Oxford Lieder Festival, and immediately booked him for this year's Iffley Festival. What is it about a particular musician that makes them stand out, I asked Michael.

"Particularly with singers, it's the ability to come across to an audience. I've never been a professional musician, but I have sung in a very, very good choir under world-famous conductors. So I do know a little bit about singing. I'm always looking for projection — words, personality, but particularly projection that is faithful to the music. Gary sang some Britten folk song arrangements on that occasion, which are a gift to a singer, and I'm pleased to say he's repeating them in his Iffley concert. It'll be a mixed programme, and I think the various aspects of his talent will come out."

Simona Mihai

In all the concerts, performers — including soprano Simona Mihai (pictured) — select their own repertoire. But surely Michael Bourdeaux can't like every single piece that's chosen?

"Before the artistic integrity of my interpreters, I am the soul of humility!" he laughed. "I'll be specific: one composer I'm not very fond of is Nicolai Medtner. One of our performers, Veronika Ilinskaya, insisted on putting Medtner into her programme last year, but I didn't stand in her way. I didn't particularly enjoy the piece when she played it, but that's what she wanted to do. The only grounds on which I would exclude something would be if we had included that same piece of music very recently."